AMMO Restaurant + Bar, Hong Kong
Wednesday 13 Feb 2013


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The Hong Kong Asia Society commissioned renowned New York-based Architects Todd Williams and Billie Tsien to create a landmark building as a home for their new headquarters. The result is a magnificent architectural feat and an opportunity for unique and creative interior experiment.

Built by the British army in the mid-19th century, the former explosives magazine compound is a culturally and historically significant site. The AMMO restaurant not only references its prestigious context but pays tribute to it aesthetically and conceptually.

With such a significant site comes inspiration drawn from a significant film noir masterpiece- Alphaville. A French science fiction film directed by Jean-Luc Godard in the 1960s. Not only is the cinematography noteworthy for interior inspiration, the plot of freedom fighters removing themselves from a world of sci-fi dystopia and dictatorship of Alphaville chimes with the military history of the site.

The spiral staircase is a recurring theme within the Alphaville film. Within the restaurant, Wang deconstructed it formally and aesthetically to draw the viewers attention to the 6 metre high ceiling as well as to create a dramatic and dynamic effect within the space. The central feature of the space is a set of three sculptural spiral staircase chandeliers constructed purely out of copper plumbing pipes.

One staircase chandelier pays tribute to the treads; one to the banisters and one to the risers of a formal staircase. The shades of the chandeliers are crafted out of bent copper mesh and rods. These raw materials reference those used in military and industrial settings.

Boasting a 6m high ceiling as well as glazing on three of its four sides, the restaurant had inherent acoustic issues. With a small footprint of 1,200 sqft, it was also a challenge to instil a sense of privacy and human scale for its diners within such a grand and lofty space.

In response to a brief that asked for an ambient and private fine-dining experience, Wang created a bunker-like ceiling fabricated from upholstered panels, which absorbs much of the reverberations from the glazing. Various seating levels allow the guests to have some separation vertically; from bar to counter to dining height and cocktail tables, one can dine with a sense of privacy.

Within a jungle-like setting, Ammo is immediately surrounded by tropical rainforest as well as some of Hong Kong's towering high-risers in the distance. Wang made the decision to welcome this stunning environment into the restaurant by keeping the glazing relatively porous whilst predominantly using copper within the interior- a material that ages through a colour spectrum reminiscent to that of its context. As the metal oxidises from pinkish orange to green to browns, Ammo welcomes the transient nature of its context into its own interior.

Luxurious materials such as leather, velvet and silk were chosen to offset the hard-edged custom fixtures and detailing found in the design. The design language is sophisticated yet surreal; designed without a particular style in mind, without a reference to a particular design historical period. Instead it is a direct response to the context within which the restaurant sits within.

Diners will find themselves in a space that begs them to question the significance of its context. Under careful study of materials and detailing, the diners will be rewarded with clues as to ascertain the site's history and invent new meaning from them.